A dose of reality: outside of location and price - reviews are the single most important part of your vacation rental listing. Sometimes, people will go the extra mile for price if the reviews are stellar. There will always be a negative review here or there for reasons beyond your control, but what you can control is earning your listing a steady stream of positive reviews that push your vacation rental over the top. Here are a few suggestions to accomplish this important task:
Identify your Advocates
If you've taken great care in taking great care of your visitors from Day 1 - you likely have a handful of advocates already. These are the travelers that have "told their friends and family" about their amazing time at your place. Reach back out to them for one more favor, to kick start your online reviews. If you can get a few high-quality, 5-star reviews right from the start, you'll be in good shape.
Keep a guest book in the vacation rental. Encourage visitors to keep a diary or itinerary of their stay listing their favorite attributes. Ask your guests afterwards if you can include their messages as a review on your vacation rental listing. Most will be more than happy to permit you to do this. Keeping a guest book is also a great way for travelers to give each other tips on what to do in the area, or little quirks about the home. Win-win for everyone.
The old fashioned way of getting what you want is offering an incentive to someone for completing it. Of course you don't want these review to be "pay for play" or anything underhanded, but offering "50% off a one night repeat stay" can go a long way towards motivating someone to leave a review. There are a number of other possible incentives to offer previous guests (review your tax and local FTC laws to be sure) and it should be a tactic to be considered. Even a gift basket or a framed photo of the location would be an appreciated gift.
Encouraging Follow Up
Some travelers may be forgetful. Coming back from a vacation can be a whirlwind diving back into work and homework and regular responsibilities. A nice way to encourage your visitors to drop in and leave a review is to send a handwritten note, or even a personalized email. This makes them feel special, and if their stay was enjoyable, they will gladly leave you a nice review. Don't be too pushy - but if it takes two or three messages to get the desired result, it's worth it.
At the end of the day, the best way to get more guest reviews is to provide exceptional service throughout the entire rental process. The kind of unforgettable service and extra (above-and-beyond) surprises that shock and awe your guests. The kind of experience that they simply can not help themselves from telling the entire internet about how wonderful their vacation was. These are the types of people who end up in bucket 1, your advocates, and the cycle continues on. If you build it, they will review.